Official figures show the eurozone economy shrank in the second quarter of the year.

Eurostat, the EU's statistics office, said the eurozone contracted 0.2% from the previous three-month period.

Had the economy contracted in the first quarter, instead of staying flat, the eurozone would be in recession, which is officially defined as two quarters of falling output in a row.

The eurozone as a whole has been lifted by the strength of the German economy, Europe's biggest.

Earlier, figures showed Germany growing a greater than expected 0.3% during the quarter.

Six euro countries are in recession, including Greece, Spain, Italy, Cyprus and Portugal, which have also asked for international assistance to deal with their debts.

The CSO has yet to publish equivalent figures for Ireland.

Last week Italy, in the grip of tight budgetary targets, reported a severe contraction of 0.7% for the second three months.

It is pleading for some relaxation to allow its economy to grow.